Wisdom of a constant reader

Pile upon pile of books in his study – not just on shelves but scattered over tables – is evidence that Archbishop Philip Wilson is an avid reader. Despite his hectic schedule as Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide and head of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, he still finds time to read not one but a number of books at any given time, reports Jenny Brinkworth in Southern Cross.

“Some books I finish but I am always reading many, many books at the one time and some I’ve been reading for years – I read a bit and then go back to them,” he explains.

As for his preferred topic (his favourite book is the Bible), that would be history and amongst the various books he is reading at the moment, there is bound to be one on military history.

“I’m very interested in history and I set myself a little task when I came here (to Adelaide) that I would concentrate my historical reading on Australian military history in World War I and World War II,” he says.

“As a kid I was interested in it - I was born just five years after the war ended and was surrounded by people who had been in the war. And I suppose I have a mind that is searching, I’m interested in the facts and why things are the way they are or worked out the way they did.”

His fascination with history has had a strong impact on his thinking. “One of the things that strikes me is that the world is concurrently beautiful and frightening - human nature can be both good and bad,” he says.

“The situation is so extreme in wartime that it manifests the best and worst of humanity. You see time and time again in the midst of absolute horror that someone makes the choice to do what’s right.”

He draws parallels with the way the Nazis treated Jews and other minority groups with contemporary society and the devaluing of life.

“People (in Nazi Germany) were conditioned towards hatred and a view in life that there were first grade human beings, second grade human beings and as you go down the scale you can do whatever you want to them,” he says.

“We have exactly the same challenges in our contemporary society in terms of right to life issues, whereby some people’s lives are valued and others aren’t.”

FULL STORY Living by the book (Southern Cross)

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